Although Israel allows for the freedom of religion, its government frowns at any religious action that tries to convert its residents from one religion to another, an Israeli diplomat told PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview.
The Israeli ambassador to Nigeria, Michael Freeman, said Israel does not, “want people coming in and trying to convert the Jews to become Christians or to convert the Muslims to become Christians, the Muslims to convert the Christians or the Jews to convert the Muslims because it just creates a point of conflict.”
Mr Freeman was responding to a question on a proposed bill that many believe seeks to stop evangelism in Israel.
“There is no law that is being passed or going to be passed in any way limiting Christian freedom or anything else in Israel. It is a story and it is not true,” he said.
A bill was introduced in January that said trying to convert someone from their faith should be punishable by one year in prison and solicitation to convert a minor would be punishable with a two-year sentence.
It was proposed by two ultra-Orthodox Jewish lawmakers, Moshe Gafni, who heads the parliament’s Finance Committee, and Yaakov Asher.
The proposition met criticism from evangelical Christians around the world including American evangelical Christians.
Some Nigerians also expressed concerns over the bill. Nigeria has millions of evangelicals with thousands undergoing pilgrimage to Israel annually.
The Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) in 2022 said at least 10,000 Christians will go on pilgrimage to Israel and Jordan in 2023.
Mr Freeman in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES assured that there is total freedom of religion in Israel.
“You are allowed to practice your religion; Jerusalem is the home to the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. All have holy places and all are allowed to go there.”
He said Christians, Muslims, and Jews are able to freely practice their religions as they want, how they want, in any way whatsoever.
He said the controversial bill in parliament is not about limiting anybody’s rights or freedom.
“If someone wants to come on holiday, they can come on holiday; if you want to preach to the people you brought with you, you will absolutely preach to the people…”
In the interview, Mr Freeman also spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the controversial judicial reforms, and the Israel-Nigeria relations. Read the interview here.
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